Coming off a strong third-place finish at the 3A State Wrestling Championships in 2017, the Morgan High School wrestling team has high goals for the 2017-2018 season. Nine returning seniors lead the team along with three juniors, four sophomores and six freshmen.
“Our team is doing well, and I feel like we have a good chance to compete well this year,” Coach Dustin Rock shared.
“With the new re-alignments and many smaller schools in 3A, the only full teams in our region this year will be Grantsville and South Summit, although Summit Academy and Judge will have good wrestlers to compete as well,” Rock continued. “At the 3A state level, Juab (2017 3A Champion) and Delta (2017 2A Champion) are always strong with other individual strong wrestlers coming from several other schools.”
Rock has created a challenging schedule to prepare his wrestlers to contend at the state level. After opening the season on Nov. 16 with an intersquad dual, Morgan will travel to North Summit for their first meet on Nov. 29. They will compete at the highly competitive Layton Invitational Tournament on Dec. 1-2 and then welcome the defending 4A State Champion—Wasatch—to Morgan on Dec. 5 for a meet. Juab will travel to Morgan on Jan. 3 for the Trojans’ second home meet of five for the year. Morgan’s other three home matches will be Dec. 6 against Rigdeline, Jan. 10 in against Summit Academy and Senior Night against Grantsville on Jan. 16.
“Senior leadership is important,” Coach Rock noted. “These older wrestlers can motivate and be good role models for our underclassmen.”
“Our goal is first place [in the state]” Senior Chris Payne shared. “Most importantly, I hope everyone
Payne, one of eight seniors returning to Head Coach Dustin Rock’s experienced squad, earned a third-place individual finish at 106 lbs in 2017, but will be taking to the mat at 126 lbs or 132 lbs this season. Payne has been wrestling since he was 5 years old and would love to claim a state title and follow in the footsteps of his father, Cody Payne, a two-time state wrestling champion at MHS in 1989 and 1991.
Fellow senior, Isaac Ware, who has wrested for two years and is considering the 126-138 lbs range for this season, believes that for the team to succeed that they need to “condition and work hard in the third round.” Ware was a state qualifier last year and has set a personal goal to place at state this year.
Senior Chase Peterson, who is wrestling his fourth consecutive year for MHS, feels that his increased confidence will help him achieve his personal goal of placing at state this year. Peterson, who wrestled 170 lbs last year, has dropped 10 lbs and is looking to wrestle 160 lbs this season. “I love to hunt,” Peterson shared, “and this fall, it was a not good hunt. I just hope wrestling goes much better than my hunt.”
Second-year wrestler and senior Cass Giles hopes to translate his football success onto the wrestling mat. Giles, who just stepped off the field after last Saturday’s championship game, qualified for state last year in his first year of wrestling. He is looking to wrestle at 145 lbs this year and improve on his finish last year. When asked the differences between football and wrestling, Giles noted that “you have to be quicker in wrestling, there are not as many breaks and it takes a lot more conditioning.”
“Last year I was one match from placing at state,” observed senior Hayden Stuart, 170 lbs. “This year I am going to work hard to push myself to make it to the top.’’ Stuart has wrestled all four years at MHS and began the sport in fifth grade.
During his freshman and sophomore years, senior Bridger Butterfield participated in MMA fighting and his coaches recommended wrestling to improve his MMA skills. As a junior, Butterfield joined the MHS wrestling team and said that wrestling has “definitely helped, especially Jujitsu-wise. It has helps me to get into better positions to score.” Butterfield looks to take his wrestling and MMA skills to the mat at 152 lbs or 160 lbs. “I would love to place at state and become a state champion,” Butterfield interjected.
Veteran state-placer, Antonio Nava, has earned a spot on the podium at state each year of high school and is looking to finally ascend to the top this year as a senior. As a freshman, Nava placed fifth and the past two years he has finished second in state. Nava is eager to return and claim a state title, but misses older brother, Carlos, who graduated last year.
“I have been wrestling since I was 6 years old,” Nava recounted. “I want to win a state title, but there will be tough competition. It’s different to be in the wrestling room without my older brother. It actually kind of sucks being here without him, but if we work hard as a team and believe in ourselves, we can have a successful year.”
Morgan’s final senior, Chase Trussell, a two-time returning state champion, was away on a college recruiting trip during the senior interviews. Trussell will be looking to become Morgan’s fourth three-time state champion, along with Kyle Wilson (1982-1984 (155, 155, 167)), Adam Walker (1987-1989 (105, 125, 130)) and K.C. Rock (1991, 1993-1994 (103, 112, 119)).
Morgan’s senior cadre will be joined by juniors Taylor Bearnson, Montana Cragun and Tom Howard. “Our junior class is small,” Rock explained, “but I am hoping that as a class they will really step us and show us what they can do.”
The junior corps is followed by four strong sophomores, including two returning state placers. Jarrett Jorgenson won a state title last year as a freshman, and Joseph Mecham earned sixth place. “I am hoping to see both Joseph and Jarrett in the finals at state this year,” Rock noted and added, “Brennan Campbell joined us last year and as a first-year wrestler qualified for state. I am hoping he will carry the excitement of his great end of the year in football right into wresting. Spencer Belinski will be coming off an injury, and I am excited to see what he will be able to do.”
Belinski will be joined on the team by his younger brother, Tanner, and his talented freshman classmates. Tanner Belinski, Tyler Chase, Parker Jordan, Waylen Pentz, Isaac Rees and Chance Toone will look to add to the team and contribute right from the start by filling in some missing weights. “I am excited to watch this freshman class as they struggle to make some noise on the mat. They are a good group of athletes,” Rock reported. “I think this is one of the best classes of freshmen I have had.”
Rock will be joined by assistant coaches Eddie Patino, Zeth Porter, Ed Kinsey and John Rock. Patino, a former MHS and Western Wyoming College wrestler, will be in his first year with Rock. Porter, who wrestled under Rock at Clearfield High School, is returning for his third year along with Kinsey, the strength coach, who also wrestled at Morgan. John Rock, Dustin’s father, who has, according to Dustin, “coached and been associated with Morgan Wrestling for longer than I can remember” will help out as needed, especially at tournaments.